Albert Camus on why right wingers want global warming

It’s occurred to me that conservatives aren’t global warming deniers. Rather, they know global warming is a reality, yet they welcome it. They’re a suicidal death cult. Catastrophe brought on by climate change means they’ll not only get to shoot people (like they did during Hurricane Katrina), but that their suicidal, life denying impulses will take us all down with them.

This logic has carried the values of suicide, on which our age has been nurtured, to their extreme logical consequence, which is legalized murder. It culminates, at the same time, in mass suicide. The most striking demonstration of this was provided by the Hitlerian apocalypse of 1945. Self-destruction meant nothing to those madmen, in their bomb shelters, who were preparing for their own death and apotheosis. All that mattered was not to destroy oneself alone and to drag a whole world with one. In a way, the man who kills himself in solitude still preserves certain values since he, apparently, claims no rights over the lives of others. The proof of this is that he never makes use, in order to dominate others, of the enormous power and freedom of action which his decision to die gives him. Every solitary suicide, when it is not an act of resentment, is, in some way, either generous or contemptuous. But one feels contemptuous in the name of something. If the world is a matter of indifference to the man who commits suicide, it is because he has an idea of something that is not or could not be indifferent to him. He believes that he is destroying everything or taking everything with him; but from this act of self-destruction itself a value arises which,perhaps, might have made it worth while to live. Absolute negation is therefore not consummated by suicide. It can only be consummated by absolute destruction, of oneself and of others. Or, at least, it can only be lived by striving toward that delectable end. Here suicide and murder are two aspects of a single system, the system of a misguided intelligence that prefers, to the suffering imposed by a limited situation, the dark victory in which heaven and earth are annihilated.,%20Albert%20-%20The%20Rebel%20%281951%29.pdf

What do Evo Morales and Michael Bloomberg have in common?

They both ran for another term in opposition to existing term limits.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Mayor Michael Bloomberg won the right to seek re-election as New York’s City Council voted on Thursday to extend the two-term limit for elected officials as the city grapples with the global financial crisis.

Bloomberg, a former Wall Street trader and self-made billionaire who was elected in 2001 and in 2005, wants to run again on grounds that his financial experience will be valuable in guiding the city through lean fiscal times ahead.

The 51-member council voted 29-22 to approve the measure. About two-thirds of the council would have been forced out of office under the two-term limit, but they can now run for a third term in the November 2009 election.

Bloomberg welcomed the decision as the “the right choice.”

Aside from that they have nothing in common. Morales vastly improved the lives of Bolivia’s poor and indigenous. Bloomberg gentrified the poor out of New York City.

Do a search for the story in 2008 and 2009 on Bloomberg’s bullying a compliant city council into granting the suspension of the two term limit. Notice how different the coverage is from the coverage of the Bolivian Supreme Court’s decision to allow Evo Morales to run for another term.

I wonder if anybody in the press will ask Bloomberg about it during his campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

Good News and Bad News

The good news: the attempt by Amazon to get rid of Kshama Sawant in Seattle has failed

Seattle’s socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant declared victory Saturday after later vote tallies powered her dramatic comeback. She trailed by a large margin on election night before passing challenger Egan Orion on Friday.

The bad news: There was a successful military coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia


Was the United States involved? Well the CIA isn’t dumb enough to leave a long paper trail but the United States government has been trying to get rid of Bolivia for decades. Recall that back in 2013 the Obama administration forced Morales’s plane to land in Vienna then detained (kidnapped) him for the evening because they thought he was going to offer political asylum to Edward Snowden.

Bolivia reacted with fury after a plane carrying the country’s president home from Russia was diverted to Vienna amid suspicions that it was carrying the surveillance whistleblower, Edward Snowden.

France and Portugal were accused of withdrawing permission for the plane, carrying the president, Evo Morales, from energy talks in Moscow, to pass through their airspace.

Officials in both Austria and Bolivia said Snowden was not on the plane. The Bolivian foreign minister, David Choquehuanca, said: “We don’t know who invented this lie. We want to denounce to the international community this injustice with the plane of President Evo Morales.”

Recall also that during the Bush years the United States supported separatist movements in the richest (and whitest) regions of the country.

“According to e-mails, between 2006 and 2009, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) poured at least four million dollars into separatist movements” in four of the nine regions of the country, said the left-wing leader.

In 2008, authorities of the Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija departments, which make up the Media Luna region, carried out referendums in order to form autonomous governments. The referendum organizers, according to Morales, were connected to separatist efforts.

The charges against Evo Morales you’ll here from pro-coup propaganda is that he violated Bolivia’s provision for term limits and that there were irregularities in the vote.

The first is true. Morales did run in spite of term limits although these term limits (like the ones imposed by the American ruling class in response to Roosevelt) were designed  to prevent a very popular leftist president from running in another election he would almost surely win.

The second charge (that there were irregularities in the election), is almost certainly false.

Washington, DC ― Statistical analysis of election returns and tally sheets from Bolivia’s October 20 elections shows no evidence that irregularities or fraud affected the official result that gave President Evo Morales a first-round victory, researchers and analysts at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) say. Contrary to a postelection narrative that was supported, without evidence, by the OAS Electoral Observation Mission, statistical analysis shows that it was predictable that Morales would obtain a first-round win, based on the results of the first 83.85 percent of votes in a rapid count that showed Morales leading runner-up Carlos Mesa by less than 10 points.

The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978)


Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1978 film The Marriage of Maria Braun has a plot that, if not exactly a cliche, has long been part of the vocabulary of American and European film and literature. A hot young piece of ass, think Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind or Barbara Stanwyck’s Lily Powers in the Pre-Code Baby Face, uses her sex appeal to climb out of poverty to great wealth and power. To call her a “prostitute” or a “sex-worker,” however, would be a mistake. She is more like a “sex capitalist,” or a “sex entrepreneur,” a hard-headed businessman who just happens to be a beautiful woman. In many ways, it is the ideal of the liberated woman under capitalism. Sell yourself, but don’t sell yourself cheap.

What makes Fassbinder’s film still worth watching is not only the brilliant camerawork, or the performance of Hanna Schygulla, a tougher, more vital actress than Vivien Leigh and fully the equal of the young Barbara Stanwyck, but the way Fassbinder locates the story in the historically particular setting of the Federal Republic of Germany. In the 1930s, the part of Maria would have been perfect for Marlene Dietrich, the Teutonic Stanwyck, but in 1978 Germany no longer existed. In the east, the Stalinist German Democratic Republic operated under a cloak of secrecy, both western and communist. In the west was the very peculiar Federal Republic of Germany, a far-right wing state set up by Wall Street and the CIA that, boosted by debt forgiveness and Marshall Plan Aid in the days when the American ruling class was far more generous and far more intelligent, was well on the way to becoming one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

The film opens with the marriage of Maria Braun. Maria and Hermann, Klaus Löwitsch, are attempting to tie the knot outside, in the middle of an American bombing. After a bomb hits, and the smoke clears, we see them both, immobile, lying on the ground. Are they dead? We cut to Maria, a few years later, very much alive, living in a bombed out building with her mother. The American occupiers are more obtuse than oppressive, but the times are still desperate. When an American soldier throws a cigarette butt on the ground, a dozen men scramble to pick it up, getting into a brawl for one drag of that precious nicotine. Later, after a group of American soldiers catcall Maria, and she fearlessly walks up to them and declares “you may have the power to say what you just said but you don’t have the right to say it,” one of them apologizes by giving her a package of cigarettes. Now possessing cigarettes, suddenly popular, a light bulb goes off over Maria’s head. Men, and by extension, society as a whole, can easily be conquered by a show of force combined with the right kind sex appeal.

Believing her husband dead, Maria then gets hired at a cafe where German women entertain American soldiers. That German men aren’t allowed inside, and that the great majority of the American soldiers are black, is a testament to Fassbinder’s genius. The club is the mirror image of places back in the United States like The Cotton Club, segregated venues where black musicians entertained white guests, and blacks weren’t permitted as paying customers. Maria begins an affair with Billy, a rather likeable African American soldier more infatuated with Maria than she is with him, but possessing one valuable commodity. He’s willing to teach her English. Eventually Maria becomes both fluent in English and pregnant. The sex scenes are so open and matter of fact, the interracial angle so daring, that I doubt an American director, even in 2019, would be able to film anything like it without a massive backlash, both from the racist far right and the politically correct far left. It would never pass the focus group testing at a Hollywood studio. The far right, of course, would object, not only to the idea that a blond, blue-eyed Aryan would casually sleep with an African American, but that the majority of American soldiers in occupied West Germany seem to be black. The far left would object to what comes next. After Maria’s husband Hermann returns from a Russian prisoner of war camp, unexpectedly showing up right in the middle of their lovemaking, she hits him over the head with a bottle and accidentally kills him. Shortly afterwards, she loses their child in a miscarriage and gets over perhaps a bit too easily. The interracial child would be a bit too inconvenient in the racist Federal Republic of Germany. Was it actually an abortion?

Touched by Maria’s earnest confession of love, Hermann frames himself for the killing and goes to jail for manslaughter. Maria, like Scarlett O’Hara still pining for the chivalrous Ashleigh Wilkes, but possessing the hard headed instincts of a successful capitalist, then finds her own Rhett Butler, an older French businessman named Karl Oswald who’s returned to Germany to reopen the factories he lost when the Nazis rose to power. The scene where they meet is remarkable. Stuck inside a third class railway car, crowded by the frantic, unruly proletariat, Maria bulls her way into first class, bribes the conductor, and introduces herself to Oswald who, while wealthy, is no Rhett Butler, no domineering lady’s man, but an easily manipulated chump who falls in love with the beautiful Teutonic Scarlett O’Hara at first sight. Maria’s idealistic love for Hermann allows her to be especially ruthless. The more money she can make, the more comfortable she can make his life after he gets out of jail. It’s hard to express just how matter of fact, yet how inspired Fassbinder’s staging of their meeting is. From third class to first class, from being one of a desperate, impoverished mob to being an individual with space, with room to breath and converse, it’s an almost magical expression of just how completely our life changes under capitalism when we get money.

But does it really change. Fassbinder is a master of expressing not only the influence of race and class on our lives under capitalism, but just how much capitalism makes us wait. Maria’s rise to wealth and power is effortless. She’s not selling herself to Oswald. She’s merely using him for sex every once in awhile when she gets the urge. As Marlene Dietrich once remarked, “sex for Americans is an obsession. For Germans it’s just a fact of life.” Fassbinder is incapable of imaging the kind of tabloid melodrama puritanical Americans would attach to the idea of a younger woman sleeping her way to the top. Oh that poor innocent victim! That monster is exploiting her! No. She’s exploiting him. Indeed, in gaining the world, Maria loses her soul. The longer she waits for Hermann to get out of jail, the harsher, and more domineering she becomes. She no longer seems to be able to relate to other people as humans, to get out of the role of “girl boss” she’s so meticulously constructed. By the end of the film, when she finally gets paroled, she almost seems like a Nazi. In some ways, since I don’t speak German, I never quite feel like I’m getting as much out of Fassbinder’s films as I think I should be getting. Fassbinder is a highly verbal filmmaker. Subtitles are never quite enough. But there’s no mistaking the transformation of Maria’s speech from the subtle, flirtatiousness of the early scenes to the harsh way she barks orders in the later scenes, and the German language seems particularly appropriate. Girl Boss has become Girl Fuhrer.

Is the film’s narrative arc sexist? Perhaps. But it’s undeniably historical. In the film’s bitterly ironic final line “Germany wins it all,” Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who died in the early 1980s at the age of 37, predicts the future. Where Bismarck, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Hitler failed, a united Germany under Angela Merkel succeeded. Germany now has the third largest economy in the world after China and the United States. With their junior partners the French, they completely dominates the European Union. But will they ever produce another Goethe, another Mozart, or even another Fassbinder? As rich as they get, my guess is “no.”

The Molly Maguires (1970)


If you want to know how the world would look if libertarians got their way you don’t have to go very far. Northeastern Pennsylvania in the 1860s and 1870s put few restrictions on the “liberty” of the millionaires who owned the anthracite coal mines. There was no Federal Reserve. Each big mine had its own company script, legal tender only at the company store. There were no city police departments. Every “job creator” has his own private army of security guards,  private detectives, and company spies. There was no social security, no unemployment insurance, no medicare or medicaid. There were no labor laws or safety standards, and no environmental regulations. Each mine was its own little feudal kingdom governed by its own ruling class, the CEO and Board of Directors, managed by a labor aristocracy, the English, Welsh, and German Americans who worked as foremen and engineers, and worked by unskilled Irish Catholic immigrants who were, for all practical purposes, slaves.

In the early 1870s, the mine owners in what are now Lackawanna, Luzerne, Columbia, Schuylkill, Carbon, and Northumberland counties broke a series of strikes organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish fraternal order that had become the nucleus of an emerging labor movement. After the longest strike, which last over 6 months, finally petered out, the owners did what capitalists always when they suddenly find themselves in total control. They turned up the repression up to 11. Wages were cut in half. Prices at the company stores doubled. They fired adult workers and hired children, some as young as 12. More importantly, Franklin B. Gowen, the owner of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, and at the time “the wealthiest anthracite coal mine owner in the world,” began to take steps that will be all too familiar to anybody who lived through 9/11, George W. Bush, and the “war on terror.”

Whether or not the Irish immigrant labor movement in Northeastern Pennsylvania went “underground” in the 1870s is still a matter of dispute among historians. Clearly, in the wake of the famine of 1847 and the mass emigration of Irish Catholic peasants to the United States, a tradition of secret societies and violent resistance emigrated with them. At the same time, violence poverty and repression go together. Not every bar fight that ended with someone getting shot or getting his skull cracked was political. The local newspapers, however, all of which were firmly under the control of the mine owners, didn’t let the opportunity go to waste, blaming every violent crime on a secret society of Irish labor organizers popularly known as the “Molly Maguires.” A climate of fear and hysteria resulted, especially among the English, German and Welsh Americans who held petty positions of authority over the Irish Catholic underclass. Franklin B. Gowan, who, in addition to being President of the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Company, had also served as the District Attorney for Schuylkill County decided to crush the Irish immigrant labor movement once and for all.

Martin Ritt’s 1970 film The Molly Maguires is a dramatization of what follows. James McParland, a private detective played by Richard Harris, arrives in Eckley Pennsylvania, hired by Franklin McGowan to identify the leadership of “The Molly Maguires,” who McGowan believes are responsible for a series of mine explosions. Initially creating suspicion — he’s new and his hands are far too soft for him to have had much experience as a miner — McParland eventually manages to infiltrate the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, led by Jack Kehoe, a historical Irish American labor leader played by Sean Connery. As the film unfolds, McParland collects enough information to implicate ten men in the murder of two mine owners. Although the evidence was far from conclusive, all of the men are hanged in Mauch Chuck and Pottsville Pennsylvania, in what is now widely considered to be a travesty of justice. Kehoe would be hanged a year later on obviously trumped up charges. As Carbon County Judge John P. Lavelle would later observe, it was the “libertarian” ideal come to life, a government which had effectively surrendered its authority to a private corporation.

“The Molly Maguire trials were a surrender of state sovereignty. A private corporation initiated the investigation through a private detective agency. A private police force arrested the alleged defenders, and private attorneys for the coal companies prosecuted them. The state provided only the courtroom and the gallows.”

Marin Ritt’s film has one undeniably great scene. After McParland completes his first week on the job, he goes to collect his paycheck. The detective hates working in the coal mines but still, as an able-bodied, relatively young man — Richard Harris was 40 in 1970 — he’s managed to haul a lot of coal out of the ground. Nevertheless, the mine owners not only charge the miners for their equipment, they have ratcheted up the repression in the wake of the failed strikes. After all is said and done, McParland takes home a grand total of 23 cents. We keep watching. Surely, we think, the more experienced miners, who already own their equipment and who are better at hauling coal, will do better. They do worse. The more coal a miner can haul, the more equipment he needs, and the more he is charged. The man in line after McParland hauls out twice as much coal and makes only half as much money. The next man hauls out even more coal and winds up in debt for the week. He owes the mine owners money. In other words, the Irish immigrant coal miners are effectively slaves. For a moment McParland, who’s being paid by the mine owners to bust up the labor movement and who has plenty of money, hesitates, almost in disbelief at what the workers at the mine have to put up with. McParland is also an Irishman himself. Has he sold out his own soul? Is he Judas?

Nothing else in the Molly Macguires has the power of this one incredible scene. We never really learn if McParland’s hesitation was a genuine moment of regret, or if he had simply been disoriented by having, for once in his life, to do hard labor. Sean Connery is far too good-looking and far too well-built to be convincing as a coal miner. The real John Kehoe was an influential labor leader but he would still have spent many 12 hour days underground. The way Connery looks, I half expected him to check his Rolex, order a dry martini, shaken not stirred, then go upstairs to the presidential suite to fuck another Bond girl. Sean Connery in 1970, especially with his neatly trimmed mustache, would have made a great young Ernest Hemingway, but he’s no more believable as an Irish immigrant coal miner than Peter Dinklage would be as an NBA power forward.

The other miners are similarly miscast. McParland’s love interest, played by Samantha Egger, is even better looking than Connery. In the end, the only character in the film even remotely believable as working class is Police Captain Davies, a Welshman played by Frank Finlay. It has an unintentional consequence. After he explains how he had been willing to do anything to stay above ground in the light, to get out of working in the mines, we come away understanding the motivations, not of the militant labor leaders who dynamite the mine shafts, but of the private detectives who sell them out, a result the film’s screenwriter, a former communist blacklisted by the McCarthyite witch hunts in the 1950s, surely didn’t intend.  Worst of all is Richard Harris.  Normally a good actor, he seems to sleepwalk through his starring role. Although he has more screen time and dialog than anybody else in the film we never get a clue about his motivations, or even about why he’s so intent on sleeping with Mary Raines, Egger. She’s an unpleasant social climber. He’s a rat carrying out private cointelpro for a capitalist pig mine owner, and nothing registers. Well, I guess it was 1970 and everybody hated rats. If Connery hadn’t been almost as bad and almost as inexpressive, I might be tempted to say that Harris was resentful over not being the hero.

In any event, The Molly Maguires is no Matewan, John Sayles’s classic 1980s film about a similar incident in West Virginia. Indeed, it’s baffling how Martin Ritt could have made such a dull film about such a compelling historical event. Watch a documentary about the real Molly Maguires instead. But never forget, what happened on December 8, 1878 is what libertarians want, the “liberty” of the ruling class to turn the working class into actual slaves, and to do anything the hell they want to any of us without the fear of “government.”

The Current War (2017)


Without the events in Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s film The Current War, you would have no idea who I am. Think about it. You’ve never seen me. You’ve never heard my voice. You’ve never looked into my eyes or shaken my hand, and you will probably never meet in me person. Yet because of the work of Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla, I can translate my thoughts into electrical current, into a series of 0s and 1s that can then be bounced off a satellite and piped through fiber optic cable and copper wire into your home, where you can, in turn, translate them back into English. For Gomez-Rejon and screenwriter Michael Mitnick, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. We might be living Thomas Alva Edison’s dream come true, but we might also be living inside one of his nightmares. 

Even though it’s local history — I grew up a few miles from Menlo Park, New Jersey — I was not taught about the “current war,” the brutal, often unethical public relationships war in the 1880s between Thomas Alva Edison and George Westinghouse over whether DC, “direct current,” or AC, “alternating current,” would become the standard form of electricity in the United States, in school. For me, as a child, DC meant “battery powered,” AC meant “electricity,” and AC/DC meant a loud, obnoxious Australian rock band. What’s more, until last Summer, I had never even heard of George Westinghouse, let alone that he was not only a major competitor to Thomas Edison, but probably a more important figure in the history of electricity. Tesla, in turn, at least if you depend on Google for your answer, is just a car, a vanity project for South African billionaire Elon Musk. If you want to find out who Nikola Tesla is, you have to search for “Tesla inventor.” If you just type “Tesla” he doesn’t appear until the second page, and even then only because of a paid ad.

These days, the use of “alternating current” to light out homes and power our computers seems like common sense. Direct current is expensive, inefficient, and would mean a dedicated power station every block. We also understand that alternating current is really only dangerous if you don’t have any common sense. Don’t stick your finger in an electrical socket. Make sure your house is wired correctly. Back in the 1880s, however, Thomas Alva Edison, far from being an innovator or an agent of change, was standing in the way of progress. Direct current was his baby. Alternating current was not. Direct current, Edison decided, would become the standard, even if it killed him, him or any one of dozens of dogs, cats, horses, or a German immigrant named William Kemmler. Indeed, so determined was Edison to prove that alternating current was too dangerous to become commercially viable that he become, in effect, the father of the electric chair as surely as he become the father of the electric light bulb, the phonograph, and cinema.

If The Current War has a hero, then it’s George Westinghouse, Edison’s competitor, the man who not only laid the foundation for America’s electrical grid, but who exposed Edison’s collusion with the prison industrial complex of New York to build the first electric chair, and stage the first high tech execution for the press. If it has a villain it’s Edison itself. We like everything about Westinghouse, played by Irish actor Michael Shannon, and his wife Marguerite Erskine Walker, played by the surprisingly good Katherine Waterson, the daughter of Sam Waterson, the actor who starred for years in the dreadful NYPD propaganda series Law and Order. The real George and Marguerite Westinghouse were married for 47 years and the film succeeds in bringing their loving relationship to the screen. When Westinghouse and his chief engineer Franklin Pope get into a comic argument about who would throw the switch on one of their projects, she steps in and throws the switch herself. When her husband is ready to throw in the towel and call it quits, she persuades him to continue the fight. When he guiltily confesses to her that he broke into a the state executioner’s office to steal letters linking the development of the electric chair to Edison himself, she kisses him on the mouth as if to say “good going.”

If Katherine Waterston is surprisingly good in her small role, the main weakness of The Current War is Benedict Cumberbatch, the film’s star. It’s not that Cumberbatch is a bad actor or even that he’s wrong for the part. He was excellent as Alan Turing in the 2014 film The Imitation War. But for whatever reason, he doesn’t work as Thomas Alva Edison. We get no real idea why he’s opposed to alternating current, or if there’s any truth to his initial declaration that he will never invent a device that can be used to harm  people. Early in the film, Edison does turn own a weapons development contract that could have made him rich, but whether his decision to secretly help develop the electric chair comes out of a genuine belief that alternating current is harmful and thus must be stopped at all costs, or if its just his ego betraying ideals he once, or may have once held, is left in the dark. That of course is the fault of the script, not Cumberbatch, but a better actor might have been able to give us an impression of what was Edison was really thinking, to build the character from the inside out. What Mitnick’s script does convey quite well is how electrical impulses, like the ones your reading right now, are no replacement for genuine human conflict. After Edison’s wife Mary, who he neglected for his work, dies of a brain tumor and he later found out that she left him a collection of recordings on his newly invented phonograph, it’s all the more heartbreaking. A few scratchy words produced by a mechanical device are no replacement for the person you realized all too late, that you loved more than you realized.

If Nikola Tesla’s character is underdeveloped, Mitnick and Gomez-Rejon do put what time they give him to good use. By the sound of his name, I’ll assume Gomez-Rejon is a Mexican American, and even if he’s not he still manages to project his disgust over our current anti-immigrant hysteria into Edison’s treatment of Tesla, a Serbian immigrant. Not only does Edison steal his promised wage of $50,000, he casually dismisses him after the young Eastern European correctly points out that Westinghouse is right about alternating current. Later, after Tesla strikes out on his own and finds his own investor, that investor turns out to be a racist asshole who steals his patents, then tells him to “go back to where you came from.” Genius inventor, or unskilled immigrant landscaper, wage theft and xenophobic bigotry feels just the same. Indeed, even though Nicholas Hoult, who plays Tesla, didn’t impress me at all, at some point I found myself wishing the movie had been called “Tesla” instead of “The Current Wars.” Perhaps it’s a good idea for a sequel.